Tall Armenian Tale

 

The Other Side of the Falsified Genocide

 

  A Viewpoint from Two College Educators   
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 From April 1985, in the letters section of The New York Times... in response to an editorial written by an Armenian. 

 

 
Today's Turkey and the Armenian Tragedy

 

To the Editor:

Florence Avakian reminds us in "The Armenian Dead" (Op-Ed, April 27) of one of the great human and national tragedies of the 20th century the suffering of Armenians in Turkey in the years after 1915. 

But, far from contributing to understanding of this tragedy, Miss Avakian distorts the record and seeks to blame rather than identify causes. Three points in particular deserve mention. 

She refers to "mountains of objective testimony" as In part "authenticating the premeditated, systematic annihilation of a people." Of all that may be said about the events of 1915-23, this is the least supported. 

That a holocaust occurred is acknowledged by Bernard Lewis, dean of historians of modern Turkey, but not one shred of documentary, archival evidence has ever been authenticated by impartial scholarship to indicate that any Turkish government Ottoman, Young Turk or republican ordered or carried out an organized campaign on the scale of the Hitlerian genocide. The "edict" of Talat Pasha cited by Miss Avakian is a historical fiction concocted by Turkey's wartime enemies; it cannot be considered as objectively documented. 

While the sufferings and deaths of countless Armenians (the count itself is hotly disputed) living in eastern Turkey are to be deplored and mourned as much as those of other national groups, It behooves us to view the Armenians as victims of the conditions of modern warfare. Eastern Turkey from 1915 to 1923 was a front-line war zone, in which Turks, Russians, Arabs, Kurds and Armenians singly and In combination were bitterly engaged. The Armenian tragedy is no more and no less than the tragedy of other war victims, from the Boer through the Vietnamese Wars. It is unfair to hold the Turks of 1915 to a higher standard than that to which the rest of the world has adhered. 

This brings us to responsibility. Whether the current Turkish regime is "despotic," as Miss Avakian avers, is irrelevant, and in any case open to question. That it cannot be held responsible for what happened under the Young Turk regime of 1915 is not. 

The Young Turk triumvirate of Pashas Enver, Talat and Cemal ruled Turkey from 1913 to 1918, and presided over a ruthless repression of all segments of the population. The republic inaugurated by the revolution of Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) in 1923 discharged whatever responsibility it might have had for the atrocities of its predecessor by overthrowing and discrediting it.

 Let us remember and mourn the Armenian dead. But let there be an end to vilification against a nation and a people who have themselves too often been victims of Western misinformation and prejudice. 

By concentrating on vindictiveness rather than sorrow, by insisting on worldwide acceptance of their version rather than seeking scholarly illumination; by forgetting those numerous Turks who harbored Armenians and who saved and raised Armenian children to whom they had been related by ties of godparenthood in happier times, Armenians are creating the very conditions they deplore. As long as this continues, the Turkish Government cannot mourn a tragedy that happened on soil it now governs, and on which "frustrated" Armenian terrorists are nurtured.

Turkey and the Turks will the sooner come to terms with the dark spots in their past if both Armenians and non-Armenians give them a little light by which to see.

 

WILLIAM M. BATKAY

MAURIE SACKS

Montclair, N.J., April 29, 1985

The writers are, respectively, associate professor of political science and assistant professor of anthropology at Montclair State College.

 

 

 

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